Evaluation of Artificial Intelligence for Improved Plant Operation

Additonal authors: Kosinski, Cory. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Tshilombo, Alain

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) for process optimization is expected to play an increasingly important role in the future of the mining industry. The objective of AI is to develop a data driven soft (virtual) sensor using historical data that can estimate unmeasurable characteristics of the process and provide appropriate recommendations during operation to optimize the process through continuous learning. The application of AI to a hydrometallurgical process was evaluated by Sherritt Technologies in coordination with NTWIST. Historical operating data obtained from the Ambatovy facility’s High Pressure Acid Leach (HPAL) circuit was used to develop models to predict autoclave discharge parameters based on operating conditions and ore mineralogy. The prediction models were developed in such a way to also allow the user to simulate and test different operating conditions. A second set of models (AI model) were developed based on the prediction models, economic data and operating constraints for a given process unit to identify optimal reagent and steam dosages across the HPAL circuit. The development of these models was significantly complex due to the dynamic and interactive nature of the HPAL process. Despite the complexity of the models, the models were able to predict, with accuracy, the relationship between ore composition, leach autoclaves retention time, acid addition and steam addition with metal extractions as well as levels of impurities in the autoclave discharge slurry. The study showed that AI has the potential to improve the overall operation of a facility through providing tools to assist with training, troubleshooting and process optimization. INTRODUCTION The Ambatovy project, located in Madagascar, is one of the world’s largest nickel and cobalt mining and processing operation, with a design capacity of 60.000 tonnes of nickel and 5,600 tonnes of cobalt per year (Collins et al., 2016). Commissioning and start-up of the Ambatovy mine and plant facilities were completed in 2012, with acid first introduced to the ore leach in March 2012. Commercial production (defined as 70% of design capacity) was achieved in January 2014 and the production level required to achieve financial completion (90% of design capacity for 90 days) was achieved in March 2015 (Valle et al., 2016). Figure 1 shows a simplified flowsheet of the hydrometallurgical pressure acid leach (PAL) process employed by Ambatovy.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019